New Jersey, often overlooked in favor of its more renowned neighbors, offers a hidden treasure trove of hiking trails. From dense forests to breathtaking vistas, the Garden State has it all. Let’s explore the top 24 must-visit hiking trails in New Jersey, each with its own unique charm and natural beauty.
1. Hacklebarney State Park
Location: Chester, NJ
Our adventure begins at Hacklebarney State Park, a place of serene beauty known for its pristine river, scenic waterfalls, and lush woodlands. The Hacklebarney Loop Trail is a popular choice, taking you along the Black River with picturesque views and several footbridges. This is an excellent spot for birdwatching and wildlife enthusiasts, with opportunities to spot various species of birds, deer, and more.
2. Ramapo Mountain State Forest
Location: Mahwah, NJ
For those seeking a challenging hike with rewarding views, Ramapo Mountain State Forest is the place to be. The Ramapo Valley County Reservation offers several trails, including the challenging Cannonball Trail, leading to the famous ruins of Van Slyke Castle. The panoramic views from the summit are a sight to behold, especially during the fall foliage season.
3. Stairway to Heaven
Location: Vernon, NJ
Stairway to Heaven, also known as the Appalachian Trail Boardwalk, is a unique and memorable hike. As you ascend, you’ll walk along a boardwalk that seems to lead to the heavens themselves. The trail eventually takes you to a rocky ridge offering breathtaking views of the Kittatinny Mountains, making it a favorite spot for photographers and nature lovers alike.
4. Mount Tammany
Location: Delaware Water Gap, NJ
Mount Tammany is a favorite among hikers looking for a challenging ascent and stunning vistas. The Red Dot and Blue Dot Trails offer two distinct routes to the summit, each with its own level of difficulty. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Delaware Water Gap, the river below, and the surrounding landscape.
5. Palisades Interstate Park
Location: Alpine, NJ
The Palisades Interstate Park is a testament to nature’s grandeur. Stretching along the Hudson River, this park offers a network of hiking trails that showcase the iconic Palisades Cliffs, which rise dramatically from the water. The Long Path Trail and Shore Trail are among the most popular, providing stunning views of the river and the city skyline.
6. Cheesequake State Park
Location: Matawan, NJ
Cheesequake State Park is a hidden gem nestled between urban areas. It offers a mix of saltwater and freshwater ecosystems, making it a unique destination. The park features several well-maintained trails, such as the Blue Trail, which takes you through diverse landscapes, including salt marshes, hardwood forests, and a serene lake.
7. High Point State Park
Location: Sussex, NJ
At High Point State Park, you can stand atop New Jersey’s highest point and enjoy far-reaching vistas. The High Point Monument is a must-visit, offering panoramic views of three states: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Numerous trails traverse the park, making it an excellent destination for hikers of all skill levels.
8. Sourland Mountain Preserve
Location: Hillsborough, NJ
The Sourland Mountain Preserve is a hidden treasure in central New Jersey. Its rugged terrain, boulder fields, and diverse flora make it a unique hiking experience. The Ridge Trail is a popular choice, leading you through rocky outcrops and woodlands. Keep an eye out for interesting geological formations and a variety of wildlife.
9. The Giant Stairs
Location: Palisades Interstate Park, NJ
The Giant Stairs is another remarkable hiking spot within the Palisades Interstate Park. This trail is famous for its challenging rock scrambles, offering a true adventure for thrill-seekers. As you navigate the giant stone steps, you’ll be rewarded with impressive views of the Hudson River and the surrounding cliffs.
10. Buttermilk Falls
Location: Layton, NJ
Buttermilk Falls is a beautiful cascade nestled in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The hike to Buttermilk Falls is short and family-friendly, making it accessible to all ages. The main trail leads to a viewing platform with an up-close look at the falls, making it a perfect spot for a refreshing nature escape.
11. Delaware Water Gap
Location: Columbia, NJ
The Delaware Water Gap is a natural wonder that straddles the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This area offers an abundance of hiking opportunities, including the famous Appalachian Trail. Whether you’re looking for a short day hike or a multi-day backpacking adventure, the Delaware Water Gap has something for every hiker.
12. Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area
Location: Montville, NJ
Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area is a geological wonderland featuring glacial erratics, ancient rocks, and scenic overlooks. The Tripod Rock Trail is a popular choice, leading to the iconic Tripod Rock formation and showcasing the area’s unique geological features.
13. South Mountain Reservation
Location: West Orange, NJ
South Mountain Reservation offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The Lenape Trail, which traverses the reservation, provides a peaceful hiking experience through forests, meadows, and along the Rahway River. It’s an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.
14. Worthington State Forest
Location: Columbia, NJ
Worthington State Forest is the gateway to the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey. Hikers can embark on a section of the famous trail and enjoy the stunning beauty of the Delaware Water Gap. The Mount Tammany Trail, accessible from Worthington State Forest, is a challenging yet rewarding hike with breathtaking vistas.
15. Norvin Green State Forest
Location: Ringwood, NJ
Norvin Green State Forest offers a mix of rugged terrain and serene lakes. The Carris Hill Loop Trail is a popular choice, leading you through a rocky landscape and offering panoramic views of the surrounding hills. Birdwatchers will also find this forest to be a haven for various species.
16. Parvin State Park
Location: Pittsgrove, NJ
Parvin State Park is known for its serene lakes, lush forests, and diverse wildlife. The Parvin Lake Loop Trail is a scenic route that takes you around the tranquil lake. It’s an ideal spot for birdwatching and a peaceful day in nature.
17. Schooley’s Mountain Park
Location: Long Valley, NJ
Schooley’s Mountain Park is a serene oasis offering hiking trails with historical significance. The Schooley’s Mountain Loop Trail provides a peaceful journey through woodlands and past the ruins of a 19th-century resort. It’s a place where nature and history converge.
18. Watchung Reservation
Location: Mountainside, NJ
Watchung Reservation is an urban oasis with a variety of trails to explore. The Sierra Trail is a popular choice, leading you through a hardwood forest and along the picturesque Lake Surprise. It’s a convenient escape for those in the New York metropolitan area.
19. Apshawa Preserve
Location: West Milford, NJ
Apshawa Preserve offers a pristine natural environment with a network of well-maintained trails. The Butler Reservoir Loop is a favorite among hikers, offering views of the serene reservoir and opportunities for birdwatching. This preserve is a hidden gem for those seeking solitude in nature.
20. Hemlock Falls
Location: South Mountain Reservation, NJ
Hemlock Falls is a picturesque waterfall nestled within the South Mountain Reservation. The Hemlock Falls Trail is a short and easy hike leading to this scenic gem. It’s an excellent spot for a family outing or a peaceful nature walk.
21. Lawrence Hopewell Trail
Location: Lawrence Township and Hopewell Township, NJ
The Lawrence Hopewell Trail is a community-based trail system that offers a blend of hiking, biking, and nature exploration. This trail provides a unique opportunity to experience the cultural and natural heritage of the region while enjoying the great outdoors.
22. Shore Trail
Location: Palisades Interstate Park, NJ
The Shore Trail within Palisades Interstate Park is a scenic route along the Hudson River, offering opportunities to explore the park’s rich history and natural beauty. This trail takes you along the river’s edge, providing tranquil views of the water and the surrounding cliffs.
23. Wawayanda State Park
Location: Hewitt, NJ
Wawayanda State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous hiking trails, serene lakes, and camping facilities. The Wawayanda Lake Loop is a popular trail that encircles the peaceful lake, allowing hikers to enjoy the water and surrounding woodlands.
24. Wells Mills County Park
Location: Waretown, NJ
Wells Mills County Park offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking. The Batona Trail, which passes through the park, provides an opportunity to explore the Pine Barrens ecosystem and its unique flora and fauna.
These 24 must-visit hiking trails in New Jersey offer a diverse range of experiences for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Whether you’re seeking challenging ascents, tranquil lakeside strolls, or opportunities for wildlife observation, the Garden State has it all. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and embark on an adventure through the scenic beauty of New Jersey’s natural wonders. Each trail promises a unique journey and a chance to connect with the great outdoors in the heart of the East Coast.